Write to CBS today.
As MoveOn.org puts it:
It took CBS two weeks to fire Don Imus for racist and misogynistic comments, but it only took them two days to fire respected General John Batiste for speaking out against the president on the war.
It’s censorship, pure and simple. We’re aiming to get over 100,000 messages demanding that CBS re-hire Major General Batiste by the end of the week. Can you help?
To learn more about Major General Batiste, please read the New York Times article.
A compiled petition with your individual comment will be presented to Leslie Moonves, President and CEO of CBS Corporation and Sean McManus, President of CBS News.”
From Army Career Behind Him, General Speaks Out on Iraq in the NY Times:
ROCHESTER, May 10 — John Batiste has traveled a long way in the last four years, from commanding the First Infantry Division in Iraq to quitting the Army after three decades in uniform and, now, from his new life overseeing a steel factory here, to openly challenging President Bush on his management of the war.
“Mr. President, you did not listen,” General Batiste says in new television advertisements being broadcast in Republican Congressional districts as part of a $500,000 campaign financed by VoteVets.org. “You continue to pursue a failed strategy that is breaking our great Army and Marine Corps. I left the Army in protest in order to speak out. Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril. Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women.”
Those are powerful, inflammatory words from General Batiste, a retired major general who spent 31 years in the Army, a profession sworn to unflinching loyalty to civilian control of the military. Many senior officers say privately that talk like this makes them uncomfortable; when you pin that first star on your shoulder, they say, your first name becomes “General” for the rest of your life.
But General Batiste says he has received no phone calls, letters or messages from current or former officers challenging his public stance, although he occasionally gets an anonymous e-mail message with the heading “Traitor.” Having quit the Army in anger at what he calls mismanagement of the Iraq war, he says he chose a second career far from Washington and the Pentagon so that he could speak freely on military issues.
“I am outraged, as are the majority of Americans,” General Batiste said over sandwiches in a blue-collar diner here. “I am a lifelong Republican. But it is past time for change.”
A White House spokeswoman, Emily Lawrimore, said in response to the advertising, “We respectfully disagree.” Ms. Lawrimore said President Bush conferred routinely with senior officers, citing a three-hour meeting on Thursday with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a conversation earlier in the week with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander in Iraq.
“The decisions the president has made have been based on information he receives from commanders and generals on the ground,” she added.
General Batiste said he chose to go public with his critique of the war effort only after 30 years of honoring the Army’s rules of silence. He said it was that time commanding 22,000 troops in combat, in 2004 and 2005, that convinced him that American fighting in Iraq was short of vision as well as troops.
“There was never enough. There was never a reserve,” he said. “Again and again, we had to move troops by as many as 200 miles out of our area of operations to support another sector. We would pull troops out of contact with the enemy and move them into contact with the enemy somewhere else. The minute we’d leave, the insurgents would pick up on that, and kill everybody who had been friendly.”
As described by General Batiste, the message is not antiwar; it argues that continuing the war in Iraq as a civil, sectarian conflict that cannot be won by outside forces is crippling the Army and the Marine Corps. It does not deny the danger of violent Islamic extremism, he says, but contends that the war in Iraq prevents the armed services from preparing to battle other global security threats.
And it says that if terrorism, and especially terrorists armed with unconventional weapons, truly threaten America’s very survival, then the rest of the country — not just the military — should be called to sacrifice.
“In the Army, you communicate up the chain of command, and I communicated vehemently with my senior commanders while I was in Iraq,” he said. Of his departure from the Army, he said: “It was the toughest decision of my life. I paced my quarters for days. I didn’t sleep for nights. But I was not willing to compromise my principles for one more minute.”
[CBS announced this week that it was terminating its contract with General Batiste as a consultant because of the advertisements.]”
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Robert Caplin for The New York Times
“The whole controversy involving Lou Dobbs and leprosy started with a “60 Minutes” segment a few weeks ago.
The segment was a profile of Mr. Dobbs, and while doing background research for it, a “60 Minutes” producer came across a 2005 news report from Mr. Dobbs’s CNN program on contagious diseases. In the report, one of Mr. Dobbs’s correspondents said there had been 7,000 cases of leprosy in this country over the previous three years, far more than in the past.
When Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” sat down to interview Mr. Dobbs on camera, she mentioned the report and told him that there didn’t seem to be much evidence for it.
“Well, I can tell you this,” he replied. “If we reported it, it’s a fact.”
With that Orwellian chestnut, Mr. Dobbs escalated the leprosy dispute into a full-scale media brouhaha. The next night, back on his own program, the same CNN correspondent who had done the earlier report, Christine Romans, repeated the 7,000 number, and Mr. Dobbs added that, if anything, it was probably an underestimate. A week later, the Southern Poverty Law Center – the civil rights group that has long been critical of Mr. Dobbs – took out advertisements in The New York Times and USA Today demanding that CNN run a correction.
Finally, Mr. Dobbs played host to two top officials from the law center on his program, “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” where he called their accusations outrageous and they called him wrong, unfair and “one of the most popular people on the white supremacist Web sites.”
We’ll get to the merits of the charges and countercharges shortly, but first it’s worth considering why, beyond entertainment value, all this matters. Over the last few years, Lou Dobbs has transformed himself into arguably this country’s foremost populist. It’s an odd role, given that he spent the 1980s and ’90s buttering up chief executives on CNN, but he’s now playing it very successfully. He has become a voice for the real economic anxiety felt by many Americans.
The audience for his program has grown 72 percent since 2003, and CBS – yes, the same network that broadcasts “60 Minutes” – just hired him as a commentator on “The Early Show.” Many elites, as Mr. Dobbs likes to call them, despise him, but others see him as a hero. His latest book, “War on the Middle Class,” was a best seller and received a sympathetic review in this newspaper. Mario Cuomo has said Mr. Dobbs is “addicted to economic truth.”
Mr. Dobbs argues that the middle class has many enemies: corporate lobbyists, greedy executives, wimpy journalists, corrupt politicians. But none play a bigger role than illegal immigrants. As he sees it, they are stealing our jobs, depressing our wages and even endangering our lives.
That’s where leprosy comes in.
“The invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans,” Mr. Dobbs said on his April 14, 2005, program. From there, he introduced his original report that mentioned leprosy, the flesh-destroying disease – technically known as Hansen’s disease – that has inspired fear for centuries.
According to a woman CNN identified as a medical lawyer named Dr. Madeleine Cosman, leprosy was on the march. As Ms. Romans, the CNN correspondent, relayed: “There were about 900 cases of leprosy for 40 years. There have been 7,000 in the past three years.”
“Incredible,” Mr. Dobbs replied.
Mr. Dobbs and Ms. Romans engaged in a nearly identical conversation a few weeks ago, when he was defending himself the night after the “60 Minutes” segment. “Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy,” she said, again attributing the number to Ms. Cosman.
To sort through all this, I called James L. Krahenbuhl, the director of the National Hansen’s Disease Program, an arm of the federal government. Leprosy in the United States is indeed largely a disease of immigrants who have come from Asia and Latin America. And the official leprosy statistics do show about 7,000 diagnosed cases – but that’s over the last 30 years, not the last three.
The audience for his program has grown 72 percent since 2003, and CBS — yes, the same network that broadcasts “60 Minutes” — just hired him as a commentator on “The Early Show.”
I have been somewhat taken aback about how shameless he has been during the whole dispute, so I spent some time reading transcripts from old episodes of “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” The way he handled leprosy, it turns out, is not all that unusual.
For one thing, Mr. Dobbs has a somewhat flexible relationship with reality. He has said, for example, that one-third of the inmates in the federal prison system are illegal immigrants. That’s wrong, too. According to the Justice Department, 6 percent of prisoners in this country are noncitizens (compared with 7 percent of the population). For a variety of reasons, the crime rate is actually lower among immigrants than natives.
Second, Mr. Dobbs really does give airtime to white supremacy sympathizers. Ms. Cosman, who is now deceased, was a lawyer and Renaissance studies scholar, never a medical doctor or a leprosy expert. She gave speeches in which she said that Mexican immigrants had a habit of molesting children. Back in their home villages, she would explain, rape was not as serious a crime as cow stealing. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps a list of other such guests from “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”
Finally, Mr. Dobbs is fond of darkly hinting that this country is under attack. He suggested last week that the new immigration bill in Congress could be the first step toward a new nation — a “North American union” — that combines the United States, Canada and Mexico. On other occasions, his program has described a supposed Mexican plot to reclaim the Southwest. In one such report, one of his correspondents referred to a Utah visit by Vicente Fox, then Mexico’s president, as a “Mexican military incursion.””
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